DeWine ready for grand jury

Burdine's family not confident he will seek indictments in 2007 jailhouse death
Melissa Topey
Apr 26, 2014

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will take evidence in the 2007 death of Craig Burdine to a grand jury next month.

But DeWine refused to say whether he will seek criminal indictments against any law enforcement officers or anyone else during the grand jury proceedings.

Craig Burdine died at the Sandusky County jail on Aug. 11, 2007, shortly after Fremont police officers and Sandusky County jail guards dragged him from a police cruiser into the jail. 

Burdine already had severe injuries, including an open, bleeding wound on his head, a severe burn on his back and lacerations and bruises all over his body when he was arrested after a fight at a party on Sycamore Street in Fremont.  

His family fought for a criminal investigation for six years, believing a jail guard caused Craig’s death by putting a chokehold on him. 

They contend Craig should have been rushed to an emergency room rather than being taken to jail and that police automatically blamed Craig for causing the fight on Sycamore Street before they even interviewed anyone who was present when it occurred. 

Police and jail guards insisted Burdine was being combative when they brought him to the jail, but none of the video surveillance from police cruisers or from inside the jail show that. The jail guards and police officers involved all provided matching written statements about what had occurred and none of them were interviewed after Craig Burdine died.  

Craig Burdine was diagnosed with a mental illness and suffered from post traumatic stress from an incident years earlier when he was severely beaten by jail guards inside the Ottawa County jail. He was awarded a $600,000 judgement, which was later reduced to $200,000, after a civil lawsuit in that earlier incident. 

Fremont police and Sandusky County jail officials were fully aware of that earlier lawsuit and resented Craig Burdine for it when they arrested him shortly before he died, Jess Burdine said. 

After the incident in the Ottawa County jail, his son became convinced police would kill him, Jess Burdine said, and he became extremely agitated and frightened whenever he saw a police cruiser or any type of law enforcement officer. 

After he agreed in August to conduct a criminal investigation, DeWine’s office quickly determined local officials had never conducted any sort of criminal investigation when Craig Burdine died. 

Sheriff’s Capt. Sean O’Connell, who was a Fremont police detective at the time, contends he did conduct a thorough investigation. But O’Connell also stated in a court deposition he was not concerned with how Burdine died and didn’t interview any of the officers, jail guards or others who were at the jail that night. 

Instead he relied on the matching written statements they had provided.

“What happened out there in the jail between the jailers and Mr. Burdine that’s between them. Let them do their investigation,” O’Connell stated in a 2010 deposition explaining he was only reviewing the circumstances, not the cause of Burdine’s death.

The sheriff’s office also never conducted a criminal investigation. 

— BADLY BEATEN

An autopsy showed Burdine suffered extensive external blunt trauma all over his body and a fractured thyroid cartilage in his neck. 

Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser relied on what police told her and ruled Craig Burdine died from “excited delirium,” a condition often cited when a death occurs while an individual is in police custody but rarely cited for deaths that do not involve police.

Photos show brutal beating

But Dr. Michael Baden, the famed pathologist who serves as a New York Medical examiner, insists Burdine’s death was a homicide caused by asphyxiation — he could not breathe — after the thyroid cartilage in his neck was fractured by a jail guard who put a choke hold on him. 

Jess Burdine, who has spent his life savings in the fight “seeking justice” for his son, hired Baden to review the autopsy report and other other information and reports. 

But he’s never been interviewed by anyone from DeWine’s office, Baden told the Register on Thursday, even though DeWine has used Baden as an expert in grand jury proceedings in the past.

“I was concerned by this case,” Baden told the Register. “I hope there is a proper investigation done. I hope they have good agents there.”

DeWine refused to say if any of the police officers, jail guards, first responders or witnesses had been interviewed by his investigators during the seven months it’s been since his investigation was started. 

Jess Burdine and his family are not optimistic DeWine intends to seek any criminal indictments despite what they say is overwhelming evidence that a jail guard caused Craig’s death. 

“My confidence is shaky, but I am glad that they are doing this,” Jess Burdine said. “If they don’t bring indictments, with the evidence they have, they failed.”

Craig’s brother, Eric Burdine, said he does not expect anything to come from the grand jury.

“You keep your hope down so you don’t get your heart broken,” Eric Burdine said. 

That’s a lesson the family has been forced to learn after the “fake” investigation local officials conducted, he said, and how they deal with people who have mental illnesses. 

“They have killed him more times than you can imagine,” Eric Burdine said. “Every time they treated him like a second-class citizen they killed him.” 

DeWine refused to say why Baden hasn’t been contacted, and Baden was reluctant to discuss his firm opinion that Craig Burdine was a victim of homicide in the event he is called as a witness before the grand jury. 

“I stand by my report,” he said.

 

Comments

Ctwhalers

I hope this family gets justice they deserve it

Truth2u

Another investigation due to the FREE PRESS forcing accountability on the government. This is another situation where it was the Sandusky Register which forced DeWines hand, without such consistence to answer and be accountable this would have been ignored like Vitte and other events.

Thank GOD for the FREE PRESS which is so vital to our freedoms. When they are controlled by ANY party or personal prejudice we the people loose our rights.

sandtown born a...

OH NO not Sandusky county ! 1 of how many unjust acts by the corrupt! You would think after all the grand juries being seated over the acts of Sandusky county Dewine would actually do something. I guess not when there on the same side of law enforcement. I will be SHOCKED if they ever bring actual charges against anyone.

Really are you ...

Hate to say, probably not. Lack of a thorough investigation. SCSO needs remedial training on how to conduct an investigation and collect evidence when a person passes away. A vicious circle of underperformance and coverup.

Babo

The use of state grand juries to conduct excessive force investigations is current topic in Cleveland, as the prosecutor there claims he presented evidence in a shooting death and no indictment was returned.

The problem arises from the unique lack of transparency in excessive force investigations because the proceedings of grand juries are secret and there is no way to ensure the prosecution which is on the same side as the law enforcement officers did a thorough job in presenting all the evidence and allowed the grand jury to truly investigate and ask questions.

I think that whenever a member of law enforcement, a prosecutor or a judge is being investigated the proceedings of a special grand jury should be made public regardless of outcome. This would ensure that the prosecution did its job thoroughly, did not succumb to political pressure, and did not try to manipulate the special grand jury.

I also believe that any citizen who is the target of a grand jury investigation ought to be given the opportunity to testify before that grand jury to tell their side of the story if they so choose to do so. There is a lot of misuse of the secrecy of grand juries to over indict or wrongfully indict people for political reasons or career building as demonstrated by the current criminal case in Ottawa County concerning the alleged burglary of Chris Redfern's home.

The alternative is for all official misconduct investigations of state law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to be handled by the FBI and the civil rights division of the USDOJ through special federal grand juries.

Just once, I pray DeWine does the right thing and allows a special grand jury to truly hear all the evidence or would turn over this case to the Feds. But we will never know with certainty if DeWine does his job because of the lack of transparency in these cases and the enormous political pressure to protect other LEOs from criminal charges and civil lawsuits.

Julie R.

LIKE.

sash

The more I read and research, the more I 'm convinced the State needs to come up with some standardized procedures for investigations. Each generation is taught by the previous, and when the previous was substandard, they continue with subpar performance.
My guess would be that Biden wasn't contacted because you're not going to put a witness before a Grand Jury that you couldn't let a defense attorney cross examine. I am almost sorry I read Dr. Biden's deposition because my previously high opinion took a bit of a beating. Dr. Biden stated quite clearly that the fractured thyroid bone was not the cause of death and did not in any way compromise his breathing. It was merely a clue as to what had to have happened. He later changed his findings to include the possibility of positional asyhxia which can not cause injury to the neck, making the fracture about as important as a hangnail. If you read his deposition, the Appeals Court decision, and even some of the papers and research Dr. Biden dismissed (without ever reading them) it's easy to see where there could be serious problems. I think most defense attorneys would be salivating at the chance to put him on cross.

Truth2u

"DeWine refused to say whether he will seek criminal indictments against any law enforcement officers or anyone else"

NO SURPRISE HERE!! and to think I voted for this spineless politician whose only expertise is to attack businesses. BUT, I really didn't vote for him, I voted against the other choice which was even worse!

I never thought anyone could be worse than Montgomery...

Ctwhalers

Grand jury needs to be outside of Sandusky county for a fair jury. Justice for jake limberios knows all about that.